Press Release

Arm In Arm With Anti-Crime Leaders, Gillibrand And McCarthy Announce Federal Measure To Crackdown On Illegal Guns

Nov 24, 2009

New York, NY – Joined by some of the nation’s top anti-crime leaders, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Representative Carolyn McCarthy today announced a new measure authored by Gillibrand and McCarthy aimed at eliminating the steady flow of illegal guns into New York. Nearly 90 percent of the guns used in gun crimes in New York City come from out of state, and approximately 90 percent of these guns are illegal. Standing alongside Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, representatives from the Brady Campaign and New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, and the parents of victims who lost their lives from gun violence at The John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Senator Gillibrand and Representative McCarthy unveiled the Gun Trafficking Prevention Act of 2009, which will empower local, state, and federal law enforcement to investigate and prosecute gun traffickers and their entire criminal networks, while protecting responsible, law-abiding gun owners.

“By cracking down on illegal gun traffickers and their vast criminal networks, we can reduce gun violence and keep our children and families safe,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. As a mother of two young children, I care deeply about keeping our families and neighborhoods safe and giving law enforcement the tools they need to eliminate illegal guns from the street and keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. Congresswoman McCarthy has been the single leading force in Congress working to eliminate gun violence and I am pleased she has helped in writing this legislation.”

“Since I have come to Congress, reducing gun violence has been my top priority,” said Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy. “By reducing the amount of guns that are trafficked, both into New York and across the southern border into Mexico, this bill will go a long way to not only making our neighborhoods safer but will also improve our homeland security.  I was pleased to work with Senator Gillibrand on this legislation and look forward to working with her on the bill’s passage in the House and Senate.”

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said, “Senator Gillibrand and Congresswoman McCarthy’s legislation will improve our ability to rid our streets of the illegal guns that find their way into the hands of criminals to destroy families and lives. Too often, Congress has tied the hands of law enforcement with legislation like the Tiahrt Amendments, this legislation gives them the tools they need to crack down on illegal guns.”

Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said, “I want to commend Senator Gillibrand and Congresswoman McCarthy for this initiative. The men and women of the New York City Police Department have done great work in driving down shootings and murders to record lows, and in taking guns off the street. But they can’t do it alone. That’s why anything designed to impede trafficking in illegal guns across state lines is so welcome.”

Paul Helmke, President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence said, “The Brady Campaign appreciates all the work that Senator Gillibrand and Representative McCarthy have done to draft this important legislation.  It will give law enforcement the tools it needs to crack down on gun traffickers and the gun dealers who illegally supply them. It will help stop the gun violence plaguing our communities by cutting off the supply of guns that fuel the illegal gun market.  After this legislation is introduced, we hope that it will be able to move expeditiously through the legislative process and get signed into law within the next 12 months.”

Jackie Hilly, Executive Director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence said, “New York residents know all too well the tragic consequences families and children suffer when traffickers continue to sell illegal guns with no serious consequences. This comprehensive legislation is designed to identify and prosecute criminals who profit from the death and destruction they so casually encourage. Law abiding citizens everywhere who value public safety over rhetoric should support this important law.”

Jeremy Travis, President of The John Jay College of Criminal Justice said, “Senator Gillibrand and Congresswoman McCarthy are to be commended for recognizing the enormous harm caused by gun trafficking and for designing federal legislation that will provide new tools for disrupting the flow of crime guns into our communities.”

Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown said, “I’m pleased to join so many of New York State’s elected officials in this effort to combat illegal drug trafficking. Since coming into office, we have removed over 6,000 guns off the streets in the City of Buffalo.  If approved, The Gun Trafficking Prevention Act will add to our already successful initiatives to combat the flow of illegal guns, such as our successful Gun Buyback Program, which has removed well over 2,300 guns from our city streets in the past three years.”

Rochester Mayor Bob Duffy said, “Gillibrand has proposed a law that codifies common sense by recognizing the immense difference between a legal and illegal gun. This law will save lives by giving law enforcement an incredibly useful tool to interrupt the flow of illegal guns to our streets while also protecting the Constitutional Rights of legal gun owners.”

Monroe County District Attorney Mike Green said, “I want to commend Senator Gillibrand and Representative McCarthy for proposing this gun trafficking legislation.  Gun violence is a significant problem in our community and an important part of the solution is attacking those who are helping to flood our streets with guns and put them in the hands of criminals.  This legislation will provide important tools to our federal partners in our coordinated effort to attack gun violence through Project Exile.  Senator Gillibrand’s legislation will help hold illegal gun traffickers accountable for the harm they cause while protecting the rights of law abiding gun owners.”

Syracuse Mayor Matthew J. Driscoll said, “In Upstate New York the proliferation of illegal guns has added immeasurably to the increase in violent crime.  Illegal guns are finding their way into the hands of our youth thereby creating a deadly mixture of guns and immaturity.  I applaud the efforts of Senator Gillibrand to draft comprehensive federal legislation that addresses illegal gun trafficking throughout our country to combat this issue.”

Binghamton Mayor Matt Ryan said, “If we want to stop gun violence in our communities, we must crack down on illegal guns and gun trafficking. That’s exactly what this legislation will achieve, I applaud Senator Gillibrand for introducing it and I urge our federal leaders to pass it as soon as possible. When it comes to protecting our citizens, we have no time to lose.”

Albany Mayor Gerald Jennings said, “I applaud Senator Gillibrand’s proposed gun trafficking law, as the legislation is rightly focused and targeted for those who serve to place our communities at risk for gun violence.  By adopting reasonable punishments for those dealers who break the law, I am confident that the City of Albany will becomes an even safer environment for all.”

The Gun Trafficking Prevention Act will:

Focus on Entire Criminal Network
First, the Gun Trafficking Prevention Act makes it illegal to traffick or assist in the trafficking of a firearm, making it unlawful to deliver or receive two or more firearms where the individual knows or has reason to believe that the firearms are being, or will be, used in a felony.  By going after straw-purchasers who buy a gun for someone else to help them evade required recordkeeping and background checks, corrupt gun dealers who sell firearms to traffickers, and persons who conspire with and organize gun trafficking rings, this legislation addresses firearms trafficking at every point of the chain. 

Tough Penalties for Criminals
Second, the legislation establishes stiff penalties that are a much-needed deterrent to gun trafficking.  Under this bill, traffickers could face up to twenty years in prison and be fined a significant sum of money.  It also provides greater penalties for kingpins who organize gun trafficking rings, subjecting them to an additional sentence of potentially five consecutive years in prison.  Penalties could increase depending on the number of guns trafficked.

The bill also treats individuals engaged in a conspiracy to traffic guns the same as those who actually traffick a gun.  Individuals who engage in the conspiracy are subject to the same punishment as those who physically sell and receive the illegal guns.

By creating more options and providing flexibility for prosecutors and judges, we increase the tools that are available for prosecutors in the  federal criminal justice system to appropriately crack down on individuals who are engaged in every aspect of gun trafficking.

Crackdown on Corrupt Gun Dealers
Third, the Attorney General of the United States and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) are empowered to impose heightened restrictions, levy tough financial penalties, and suspend or revoke the license of any corrupt gun dealer.  Corrupt gun dealers will be subject to a license suspension of up to six months and a fine of up to $2,500 per violation.  This is the first time that the levying of civil penalties will be widely available as a deterrent for corrupt gun dealers.

The Attorney General is given the authority to identify and impose special restrictions on high-risk gun dealers, which could include dealers who have been unable to trace guns as required by federal law or who report significant or frequent inventory losses or thefts, among other criteria.

To prevent these high-risk dealers from supplying guns to traffickers, federal law enforcement would be able to impose conditions on them such as increased inspections, inventory checks and reconciliation, training dealers and employees in how to avoid illegal sales, and requiring that the dealer not complete firearm sales until the national instant background check system informs the dealer that they may proceed with the sale.

The overwhelming majority of licensed gun dealers are responsible and law abiding.  This bill goes after the very small minority of dealers who are contributing to the cycle of violence that puts our children and families at risk.

For those dealers that are suspected of corrupt practices, the legislation protects the right of due process before their licenses are revoked by the Attorney General, and also allows for gun dealers whose licenses have been revoked to seek judicial review.  By putting reasonable punishments in place, this legislation would put corrupt gun dealers out of business, create deterrents to engaging in these behaviors and keep our neighborhoods safe from gun violence.

Funding for ATF
The fourth part of the bill provides ATF with the resources that it desperately needs to inspect all federally licensed gun dealers and further investigate high-risk gun dealers.  Federal law currently allows ATF to conduct annual inspections of all federally licensed dealers, but with the current lack of resources and funding it would take the bureau between seven and ten years to properly inspect every licensed dealer in the country.  This allows corrupt dealers to go for many years without being suspected or caught.

To address this problem, the bill would authorize the Director of ATF to hire more personnel necessary to increase the average inspection rate of gun dealers to three years.  Specifically, ATF would be given the authority to hire at least 500 additional Industry Operations Investigators and 1000 special agents, who would be equipped with sufficient funding to meet the goals of inspecting gun dealers, enforcing these tough new restrictions, and supporting local law enforcement as they track down and prosecute gun traffickers in New York and around the country.

Protections for Responsible, Law-Abiding Gun Owners
Finally, the legislation upholds the Constitution and protects the rights of law-abiding gun owners.  Specifically, the bill provides a defense for an individual seller who obtains a background check on the person to whom he or she is selling prior to the sale.  This serves to protect individual gun owners who make a good faith effort to ensure that they are not selling their firearm to a person who is prohibited from possessing those guns.  This bill does not provide any new regulations on individuals who wish to sell or give their firearms as a gift to law-abiding family members, friends, or neighbors.  It creates an incentive to conduct a background check before the gun is exchanged.  It also exempts executors from prosecution under this legislation if they are carrying out the provisions of a will.